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Williams v. Saul

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

October 3, 2019

LAMARR D. WILLIAMS
v.
ANDREW SAUL[1]

          OPINION

          JACOB P. HART UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Lamarr D. Williams brought this action under 42 USC § 405(g) to obtain review of the decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying his claim for Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”). He has filed a Request for Review to which the Commissioner has responded. As set forth below, I recommend that Williams' Request for Review be granted in part and the matter remanded for the taking of evidence from a psychiatric medical expert.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         Williams was born on July 26, 1978. Record at 176. He completed high school. Record at 201. He has no significant work record, although he served two years in the army and has held jobs for brief periods since then. Id.

         On December 30, 2014, Williams filed his application for SSI. Record at 176. In it, he asserted disability since February 5, 2012, as a result of depression, a seizure disorder, and mental illness. Record at 176, 200. His application was denied. Record at 75. Williams then sought de novo review by an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). Record at 89. A hearing took place in this case on June 26, 2017. Record at 32.

         In a written decision dated August 25, 2017, however, the ALJ denied benefits. Record at 15. The Appeals Council denied Williams' request for review, permitting the ALJ's decision to stand as the final decision of the Commissioner. Record at 1. Williams then filed this case.

         II. Legal Standards

         The role of this court on judicial review is to determine whether the Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial evidence. 42 U.S.C. §405(g); Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389 (1971); Doak v. Heckler, 790 F.2d 26, 28 (3d Cir. 1986); Newhouse v. Heckler, 753 F.2d 283, 285 (3d Cir. 1985). Substantial evidence is relevant evidence viewed objectively as adequate to support a decision. Richardson v. Perales, supra, at 401; Kangas v. Bowen, 823 F.2d 775 (3d Cir. 1987); Dobrowolsky v. Califano, 606 F.2d 403 (3d Cir. 1979). Moreover, apart from the substantial evidence inquiry, a reviewing court must also ensure that the ALJ applied the proper legal standards. Coria v. Heckler, 750 F.2d 245 (3d Cir. 1984).

         To prove disability, a claimant must demonstrate that there is some “medically determinable basis for an impairment that prevents him from engaging in any ‘substantial gainful activity' for a statutory twelve-month period.” 42 U.S.C. §423(d)(1). As explained in the following agency regulation, each case is evaluated by the Commissioner according to a five-step process:

(i) At the first step, we consider your work activity, if any. If you are doing substantial gainful activity, we will find that you are not disabled. (ii) At the second step, we consider the medical severity of your impairment(s). If you do not have a severe medically determinable physical or mental impairment that meets the duration requirement in §404.1590, or a combination of impairments that is severe and meets the duration requirement, we will find that you are not disabled. (iii) At the third step, we also consider the medical severity of your impairment(s). If you have an impairment(s that meets or equals one of our listings in appendix 1 of this subpart and meets the duration requirement, we will find that you are disabled. (iv). At the fourth step, we consider our assessment of your residual functional capacity and your past relevant work. If you can still do your past relevant work, we will find that you are not disabled. (v). At the fifth and last step, we consider our assessment of your residual functional capacity and your age, education and work experience to see if you can make an adjustment to other work. If you can make an adjustment to other work, we will find that you are not disabled. If you cannot make an adjustment to other work, we will find that you are disabled.

         20 CFR §404.1520 (references to other regulations omitted).

         III. The ALJ's Decision and Williams' Request for Review

         In her decision, the ALJ determined that Williams suffered from the severe impairments of “jumper's knee” and tendinosis of the right knee, bilateral bunions, a seizure disorder, major depressive disorder, avoidant personality disorder, schizoaffective disorder, and polysubstance dependence disorder. Record at 18. She decided, however, that none of his impairments, and no combination of impairments met or medically equaled a listed impairment. Record at 19.

         The ALJ found that Williams retained the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform light work, with a limitation to simple, routine tasks, and simple judgment and decision-making. Record at 21. She explained:

Any production criteria should be capable of being made up by the end of the workday or shift. There should be few, if any, workplace changes, such as that the same duties are performed at the same station or location from day to day. There should be no contact with the general public, only occasional interaction with coworkers and supervisors, and no exposure to unprotected heights or to unprotected moving, mechanical parts.

Id.

         Relying upon the testimony of a vocational expert who appeared at the hearing, the ALJ found that Williams could work as a bottle packer, hand bander, or retail trade ticketer/marker. Record at ...


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